Lulla, lullay

November 18, 2010

This post is for any parents who may be reading. I am interested to hear about the lullabies you particularly like(d) to sing to your children.

I sing to our daughter nearly every night, and it is one of my favourite parts of the day. Last night I was warbling away, in my usual fashion, but each time I would finish a song she would raise her head from my shoulder and ask for another one. (“More.”) I tried to oblige, but after a time I ran out of ideas. When I began to entertain thoughts of singing “Enter Sandman”, I knew it was time for a fresh infusion of songs.

I have a small stock of lullabies that fall roughly into two groups: children’s songs and religious songs. In the former group are old and faithful tunes like “Lullaby and Good Night” and “Rock-a-bye Baby” as well as ditties like “How Much is that Doggy in the Window?” and “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” (I tend to turn slightly doleful as night falls.)

My repertoire of religious songs is rather spare. Mostly I rely on “Amazing Grace” and “Salve Regina”, with occasional forays to “Jesus Loves the Little Children”. I don’t much care for that latter one, but beggars can’t be choosers, and, somewhat to my surprise, I’m a beggar.

The comments are open if you would like to say a word or two about your favourite lullabies.

37 Responses to “Lulla, lullay”

  1. Douglas Says:

    My favorite is Night Watch by Jim Reeves.

    Other than that my repertoire is rather limited.

  2. KathyB Says:

    Hmmm. I too resort to “Where have all the flowers gone” and occasionally, “Blowing in the Wind”. Thomas actually has a CD of lullabies that he calls the “Baby songs” and insists on listening to as he falls asleep. I’ve learned a few from there.

    Having been in choirs for a long time, I know a great many songs suitable for use as lullabies, including a few Spirituals. Alas, I only know the alto line for most of them, and it tends to be rather boring on its own.

  3. As a musician, I heartily approve of what you’re doing, but as a bachelor I can’t speak from personal experience. My own father always sings “Good King Wenceslas” to babies – a bit strange, but they seem to enjoy it.

    It seems to me that most of the folk song repertory would fit the bill – songs like “Greensleeves,” “Scarborough Fair” or “She’s Like the Swallow” would be usable lullabies, although they would probably not improve your doleful mood.

  4. cburrell Says:

    These are nice suggestions, thanks. Douglas, that song is new to me, and I quite like it.

    I also found myself singing “Blowin’ in the Wind”, Kathy, but the context didn’t feel right to me, and my daughter didn’t care for it either: she sat up and said “No.” (That happens a lot when I play Dylan in the car too.)

    Osbert, those are terrific suggestions. Greensleeves! Why didn’t I think of that?

    • Rufus McCain Says:

      I’ve sung “Blowin’ in the Wind” to my daughters quite a bit, too. With my first daughter, I’d sometimes change the refrain to, “The answer, my daughter, is swirlin’ in the water…” “If Not For You” is another Dylan song I’ve gotten some mileage out of. “Forever Young” is another one, but I have trouble remembering the words.

  5. Jim Says:

    As of late, little B has been happy with the Lord’s prayer — not really a lullaby, but it seems to send her off to the land of nod. During waking hours, though, she is inordinately fond of banjos and/or Bob Dylan, tastes I have been trying to encourage.

  6. Janet Cupo Says:

    My kids always liked “The Skye Boat Song.” And how about “All Through the Night”?

  7. cburrell Says:

    I don’t think I know the Skye Boat Song. It sounds good. I suppose it is comes from the Isle of Skye?

  8. Janet Cupo Says:

    I can’t believe how much trouble I’m having trying to find one that I like. This is close.
    It’s about Bonnie Prince Charlie.


  9. cburrell Says:

    Thanks for taking the trouble to look. I like that song! I think I have heard it before, but the recollection is vague. I will poke around on emusic to see if I can find a version to download and learn.

  10. Mac Says:

    This seems pretty weird in retrospect, but for some reason I often used “The Fox” (who went out on a chilly night). Even weirder, “The Ballad of Billy the Kid”, which has a nice lilting sort of rhythm.

  11. KathyB Says:

    Ooh! Why didn’t I ever think of the Skye boat song. Actually, Craig, I can never remember most of the lyrics to blowin’ in the wind anyway, and end up improvising.

    I realized after I wrote the previous post, that most of our singing to the kids involves made-up lyrics, and each kid has a “theme song”. Thomas gets “We love our munchkin”, sung to the tune of “You are my sunshine”, and Mary gets “We love our bear” sung to a Taize version of the magnificat. There are additional lyrics to these versions, but they are silly 🙂

    • cburrell Says:

      I must have listened to “Blowin’ in the Wind” a few hundred times, but I get the stanzas mixed up still, lines spliced in willy-nilly wherever they will fit. You’re in good company (if I may presume to say so).

      Customized songs are great. I tend to sing her little ditties with her nicknames too, but not to any particular melody. So sweet.

  12. Jim Says:

    I have a friend whose girls are great fans of Johnny Cash songs as lullabies. He’s had to, um, customize the lyrics somewhat too.

  13. Tracy Stephen Altman Says:

    With both of our children so far, I’ve routinely used “The Tennessee Stud” (as performed by Johnny Cash on American Recordings I) and “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”

    With our daughter, I also used Dylan’s “She Belongs To Me” (after hearing his alternate take on “No Direction Home”). –Maybe that was a mistake . . .

    For an, er, alternate, but no more lullaby-ish version of “Enter Sandman,” there’s this:

    • cburrell Says:

      Bizarre. Is that Dr. Evil at the microphone?

      I can have few objections to singing either Bob Dylan or Johnny Cash, but I don’t think I’d have thought of either of those songs. “She Belongs To Me” does have a nice lilt and a comfortable andante tempo; I imagine it worked pretty well. But “The Tennessee Stud”? Well, I’m going to try it myself.

      Thanks, Tracy.

    • cburrell Says:

      I tried “The Tennessee Stud” tonight, but as soon as I began she sat up in my arms, shaking her head. “No, no, no, no, no.” Too bad.

  14. Tom Says:

    I used to sing a medley of “Moonlight Bay”, “Shine on Harvest Moon”, and “The Bells are Ringing (for me and my gal)”. My 4 daughters are pretty much grown now but they still seem to remember that fondly.

  15. cburrell Says:

    I am ashamed to say, Tom, that I do not know any of those songs. Nonetheless — and this goes for all of the songs people have suggested on this thread — I am compiling a list, tracking them down, and, if I like them, I will do my best to learn them.

    Thanks for your comment.

  16. Janet Cupo Says:

    When I was in the 8th grade, I performed “Shine on Harvest Moon” and “On Moonlight Bay” in our 8th grade talent show. It wasn’t my idea–we were told what we were going to do. There were four couples and we danced and sang in gay 90s bathing costumes. Like this red one–in fact this might be the pattern my mother used.


  17. Janet Cupo Says:

    The really sad part of all this is that our performance was on the night of the Beatles appearance on Ed Sullivan–their first appearance on American TV–and we had to miss it.

    BTW, I think that “By the Sea” is too upbeat for bedtime.


  18. cburrell Says:

    You might regret missing the Beatles, Janet, but I’m sure — I’m sure, you understand — that your audience that night shares no such sentiment.

    By the way, I didn’t know you were in the 8th grade in the 1890s!

  19. Janet Cupo Says:

    I bet you didn’t know that the Beatles were on TV in the 1890s either. They were very forward-thinking.


  20. Rufus McCain Says:

    “Tell Me Why” has been my mainstay. “As I Went Down in the River to Pray” was in the rotation for quite awhile.

    • Dorian Speed Says:

      No WAY!

      Every night, a pinkerton comes and asks Mommy to sing “the night song,” which is…”Tell Me Why.”

      My husband sings “The Eyes of Texas” to the kids.

      I was wondering if you actually sing “Lulla, Lullay” to children. It is a terrific song, but not what I’d consider a lullaby.

  21. cburrell Says:

    I sometimes find myself singing another tune from O Brother, Where Art Thou?: the Siren song, “Go to sleep, you little baby…” But it’s all about leaving the baby alone. “You and me and the devil makes three”, etc., is not very appropriate for bedtime (or for anytime, for that matter).

  22. Douglas Says:

    I know this is really late, but my wife and I just had another baby, and he really seems to like it when I sing Quiero Decir Que Sí by Luis Diaz-Bratos. For a couple different renditions…

    or for the words…

  23. cburrell Says:

    I haven’t heard that song before, and it is quite lovely. If only my Spanish were better.

    Thanks for leaving a comment, Douglas, early or late.

  24. Douglas Says:

    It is basically a song about saying yes to God like Mary. The other verses are basically about doing His will and not our own, following Him and serving Him.

  25. Douglas Says:

    My aunt introduced me to Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo_Ral. My two year old absolutely loves it.

  26. cburrell Says:

    Thanks for that suggestion, Douglas. It’s a good song.

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